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Zara Reflects on Her Path to Sustainability Wexplore

What a week. The first thing I did when arriving home (oops I mean the hotel), was lay flat on my bed for a solid twenty minutes doing nothing. Nothing, it felt energizing to do absolutely nothing. Four hotels in five nights, in three different cities. The trip really pushed me to be flexible, adaptable and to develop my ‘go with the flow’ attribute which I, at times, greatly lack.

Something I had noticed greatly on my trip, was how home became the ‘Executive Enclave Hotel’. Home became a place we were comfortable with, a place with routine. Home gained a new definition for me. It shocked me just how ‘home’ was formerly known to me, as a place with three dogs, three siblings, mom and dad. A place that constantly smelled of incense and that I grew up in, was replaced in my mind with a cramped hotel room. Home doesn’t have to be the place your siblings live in, or the place you grew up in. Home can simply be a hotel room, a place where you know where everything is, and a place that when you are forced to be flexible and adapt to sudden change, you long to return to. A big lifelong takeaway from being a nomad for the week, was that home can be anywhere you want it to be. An important lesson learnt for my many TGS travels still to come.

Rishikesh was quite the contrast to Delhi and Mumbai. The Ganga Ji river was bright blue and ashrams were everywhere. Not to mention the abundance of tourists visibly there to reconnect with themselves through spirituality and yoga. The highlight of the Rishikesh segment of the trip, was white water rafting. Exhilarating physically and mentally invigorating. The Ganges river runs through Varanasi, where we went next. Deliberately planned back-to-back, going straight from Rishikesh to Varanasi was, dare I say it, borderline disappointing. In terms of the Ganga Ji’s water quality, Rishikesh was much cleaner. I believe that this is due to the cremation and mortuary ritual in Varanasi, as well as the bulk of tourists and Hindu pilgrims, who gather to see the Aarti.

The minimal emphasis paid to preserving the cleanliness of the Ganga in Varanasi led to the sight of surface debris, open defecation, and people brushing their teeth in the water. Despite the points stated, the main reason that the Ganga is unclean is because of the sewage that is dumped via pipes. I can just imagine twenty years down the line how greatly these poor habits will have affected the Ganges. Hindus worship Ganga Ji and many ceremonies revolve around the river itself. If poor habits of the community don’t stop, tourism will decrease and society will suffer. The choices made by certain individuals to dump waste and litter around and in the river aren’t sustainable and will have long term effects that cannot be undone. These long term effects include chemicals in the water that cannot be filtered out. When we tested the water, high concentrations of fluorine tested positive, a chemical proven to be debilitating through consumption. Also, the litter will accumulate and will take a lot of time and labour to remove. I simply cannot comprehend why people attend the religious rituals that surround the river despite the surface debris consisting of plastic bottles and wrappers.  As I mentioned, however, Professor PK Mishra, who spoke to us about India’s water issues, stated that the main issue is sewage being dumped into the water. I believe that a way to combat the main sewage disposal issue would be to install septic tanks in residences. Septic tanks hold sewage and waste, which prevent it being exported and dumped elsewhere. Apart from septic tanks being a solution, education regarding this issue would be very beneficial.

In conclusion, after being pushed to be adaptable and flexible beyond belief, the trip had its lows as well as its highs, of course. I learnt a lot about my personal strengths and weaknesses, and witnessed the negative human impact on the Ganges. I don’t think I’ll be visiting Rishikesh or Varanasi soon, but who knows? Somewhere down the line, I may return to Rishikesh as a forty-year old woman, going through a mid-life crisis, trying to find myself through Reiki healing and yoga!

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